Italy will organize a referendum on 5 laws on justice; not for assisted suicide nor decriminalization of cannabis

Italy will organize a referendum on the abrogation of 5 laws in the justice system. But referendum requests about decriminalizing cannabis and assisted suicide have been deemed inadmissible.

Constitutional Court of Italy

The Constitutional Court of Italy evaluated 8 referendum requests on February 15 and 16 to decide if they were admissible for a vote from the Italian population. On February 16, the Court announced all the results.

Six of the referendum requests referred to reforms of the justice system, one was about the decriminalization of growing cannabis and another was about euthanasia.

With the Constitutional Court decision, Italians will be able to decide on the abrogation of five laws affecting the justice system.

Referendum requests for the reforms of justice collected more than 4.2 million signatures. They were notably promoted by Lega Nord, the far-right populist party led by Matteo Salvini. The Italian Radicals, a libertarian political movement also supported them.

The popular vote ought to be organized in spring. Popular referendums in Italy allow the population to decide whether it abrogates a law. The minimum threshold for considering a petition is the signature of 500,000 Italian voters. Participation needs to be above 50% of eligible voters to be valid.

On February 15, the Constitutional Court first deemed admissible four questions for a referendum, because “the respective requests do not fall under any of the hypotheses for which the constitutional order excludes a recourse to a referendum”.

Potential abrogations of Italian laws related to justice in a referendum

The Court accepted the request for changing the incarceration procedure. The referendum will ask if the custody of offenders should be removed when the potential sentence is less than 4 years of prison. Similarly, it will seek Italians’ opinion to apply preventive detention only to suspects facing no less than a 5-year jail time. Potential repeat offenses would not be affected by the change.

A question will be related to the Severino Law against corruption from 2012. The referendum aims at removing automatic office suspension and ineligibility of convicted elected officials. If abrogated, such a decision would instead be given by judges.

Italians will also decide whether magistrates must choose between being a prosecutor or a judge at the beginning of their career. A decision they would need to stick to throughout their work life if the law is abrogated.

Magistrates of the High Council of the Judiciary may not need support from other magistrates to be elected if Italians decide to reform the judiciary organ. Advocates of the reform consider it will help remove a caste system and elections based on internal politics.

Moreover, with the referendum, magistrates may not only be evaluated by their peers but also by lawyers or law professors in judiciary councils.

The Constitutional Court only rejected one referendum request related to the judiciary.

It was related to the civil responsibility of judges while doing their job. The referendum foresaw the possibility for convicted citizens to challenge judges and make them personally liable if a justice decision proved to be wrong. The law currently allows citizens to bring the State of Italy to court for seeking reparation.

Referendum requests on euthanasia and decriminalization of cannabis rejected

The civil motion for a referendum on consensual homicide received 1.2 million signatures. As the first of their 8 decisions, the court considered it inadmissible. It justified that a “minimum protection of human life constitutionally necessary would not be preserved, particularly in regards to vulnerable and weak persons”.

The Constitutional Court yet considered in 2019 that a person who facilitates the execution of an assisted suicide was “not punishable” under “certain conditions”.

The president of the Court Giuliano Amato justified during the press conference on Wednesday that the referendum on consensual homicide would have made many cases other than euthanasia and assisted suicide legal.

The petition to allow the personal use of cannabis received 600,000 signatures. It collected 500,000 digital signatures in a week since an amendment raised by parliament member Riccardo Magi from the party More Europe.

The question focused on removing the word “cultivate” marijuana for personal consumption from being a crime. The referendum would have also proposed to remove driving license suspensions for transporting narcotic or psychotic substances for personal use.

It was however rejected by the Constitutional Court because the way the request was formulated would have also included cultivating poppy and coca, which would have been against international laws, the president justified.

A referendum request for abrogating a law being denied doesn’t bar the parliament to amend legislation.

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